By Lt. j.g. Jessica Kellogg, USS Nitze (DDG 94) Public Affairs
ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- On a sunny May afternoon off the coast of Virginia, the haunting notes of Taps were punctuated by the cracks of a twenty one gun salute as the crew of the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) performed last rights for eight Sailors.
Since the earliest days of sail to today's Navy, Sailors have interred their fallen shipmates to the seas. What began as a necessity for a seafaring way of life, is today, a way to honor one's commitment and service.
The service, led by Lt. Cmdr. Autumn Butler-Saeger, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26 chaplain, opened with a reading from Psalm 107, the Sailor's Psalm: "Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep."
Following the prayer and benediction, each of the deceased names' was read, and Nitze Sailors committed the urns overboard.
"The eight men buried today were pretty interesting guys," said Butler-Saeger. "They stood the watch before many of us were born. Today, as we lay them to rest, it is our turn to take up the watch."
"It is truly an honor and privilege to be part of one of the Navy's oldest traditions," said Lt. j.g. Houston Benson. "It is a great opportunity to pay respects to those who have gone before, and provide comfort to their families that we were able to honor these men in this way"
Gunner's Mate 1st Class Antonio Burden, who was participating in his first burial at sea, was part of the rifle platoon.
"When they started playing taps when we were firing, it really hit me in the feels," he said. "It's a great honor."
Active duty members of the military, honorably discharged retirees and veterans, Military Sealift Command U.S. civilian personnel, and their dependents are all eligible for a burial at sea to honor their service to the country.
Nitze is currently underway off the coast of Virginia.